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Jury Selection Starts In Capital Trial Of Pittsburgh Synagogue Killer

Jury selection began Monday in the federal death penalty trial of a truck driver accused of killing 11 Jewish worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history. Robert Bowers, 50, of the suburb of Baldwin, faces 63 counts in the Oct. 27, 2018, attack at the Tree of Life synagogue, where members of three Jewish congregations were meeting. The charges include 11 counts of obstruction of free exercise of religion resulting in death and 11 counts of hate crimes resulting in death, the Associated Press reports. Bowers offered to plead guilty in return for a life sentence, but prosecutors turned him down even though President Biden pledged while campaigning three years ago that he would work to end the federal death penalty. Bowers’ lawyers say he has schizophrenia and structural and functional brain impairments

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Prosecutors are expected to tell jurors about incriminatory statements Bowers made to investigators, an online trail of antisemitic statements they say shows the attack was motivated by religious hatred, and guns recovered from him at the crime scene where police shot Bowers three times before he surrendered. The families of those killed were divided over whether the government should seek the death penalty, but most were in favor. Prosecutors may introduce autopsy records and 911 recordings, including recordings of two calls from victims who were subsequently shot to death. Their evidence includes a Colt AR-15 rifle, three Glock .357 handguns and hundreds of cartridge cases, bullets and bullet fragments. Bowers also injured seven people, including five police officers. Prosecutors said Bowers “harbored deep, murderous animosity towards all Jewish people.” They said he expressed hatred for HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a nonprofit humanitarian group that helps refugees and asylum seekers. The three congregations — Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light — have spoken out against antisemitism and other bigotry since the shootings. The Tree of Life Congregationis working with partners on plans to renovate and rebuild on its synagogue by creating a complex to house a sanctuary, museum, memorial and center for fighting antisemitism.

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